Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Faulty Tests?

A few months ago we had several clients showing up positive for alcohol on their urinalysis tests. When we'd confront them they would protest strongly.

"Alcohol's not my drug of choice," they'd say. Or "I've never drank in my life."

Many were so convincing that the question of test quality came up at weekly staff meetings. A few clients convinced their counselors there was a defect with the tests.

When clients protested too much we'd even put them on the phone with a lab technician at the testing company. And of course the technician would tell them exactly what the test showed. And how there was little probability there was a mistake – maybe less than a half of a percent.

But over a six-week period we kept getting positive tests for alcohol among half a dozen clients.

This went on long enough that we had a talk with the company representative. Could there be something wrong with the testing procedures? He assured us there wasn't. His company didn't become a nationwide corporation by doing shoddy work.

So what to do? Finally the staff came up with a solution. And it's one that seems to work – at least so far.

We bought a couple of breathalyzers to use on-site. So now – when clients are off property – they may receive a random test when they return. They never know when the tests will happen. Nor do we. Whenever our managers get the urge - or have an intuitive feeling - they'll use the breathalyzer.

And the interesting thing is that since we began using them about six weeks ago no one has come up dirty for alcohol – not one.